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The 2014 Ukraine crisis

In November 2013 the Ukrainian government of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, decided not to sign a planned Association Agreement with the European Union and demonstrations ensued in the capital Kyiv. The ‘Euromaidan’ demonstrations turned violent in early 2014 and, in February that year, some European foreign ministers mediated a compromise, involving a unity government and early elections.

After the collapse of a power-sharing agreement on 22 February 2014, President Yanukovych disappeared from Ukraine and a new government was installed by the Ukrainian parliament.

Later that month unidentified military figures, widely thought in the West to be Russian personnel (this was later confirmed), surrounded the airports in Crimea, a majority-Russian peninsula in Ukraine and the Crimean autonomous assembly was taken over by pro-Russian forces. In March 2014 a declaration of independence was issued by the assembly and a subsequent referendum on union with Russia was held.

Since then, Russia has maintained its control over Crimea and supported pro-Russian separatist forces who also took control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine (the Donbas) in 2014.

Fighting between Russian-supported separatists and Ukrainian government forces has continued in the Donbas for the last eight years despite the negotiation of the Minsk Agreements in 2014/2015 which called for a ceasefire, the withdrawal of all foreign armed groups and constitutional reform recognising the special status of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Current crisis

In early November 2021 Russia began building up military forces along the borders of Ukraine, for the second time in a year. Over 100,000 Russian military personnel and assets were deployed in Crimea and in the Voronezh, Kursk and Bryansk regions of Western Russia. Further Russian forces were deployed to Belarus for a series of exercises close to the Ukrainian border and Russian naval assets from the Baltic and Northern fleets deployed for exercises in the Black Sea.  

Tensions escalated following a US intelligence assessment in December 2021, which suggested that Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

On 24 February 2022 Russia launched military action in Ukraine, with forces crossing into the country from Belarus in the north, Russia in the east and Crimea in the south. Russia’s actions came just days after President Putin officially recognised the self-declared independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), the regions of eastern Ukraine that are under the control of Russian-backed separatist forces, and deployed “peacekeeping” forces to the region. 

More recently, Donetsk and Luhansk – together with Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – voted overwhelmingly in support of accession to the Russian Federation. In a speech on 30 September, President Putin announced Russia’s intention to annex those regions and recognise, and defend, them as part of the Russian Federation. Those treaties of accession were signed into Russian law in early October 2022.

In recent weeks Ukraine has conducted a major counteroffensive and, in response, Russia declared a partial mobilisation of reserve forces.

Russia’s actions have been met with international condemnation. An unprecedented package of sanctions has been imposed on Russia by the US, EU, UK and other allies and partners around the world.

NATO, meanwhile, has moved to shore up the defence of eastern Europe, although NATO troops will not be deployed on the ground as Ukraine is a partner country of the Alliance and not party to NATO’s Article V mutual defence clause.

This reading list provides links to Commons Library briefing papers, UK Government press releases and parliamentary material since 2014.

This paper will be regularly updated as the crisis continues.

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